• Josuel Plasencia

Your 2020 Virtual Summer Youth Program Can Do More Than Adapt, It Can be Stronger Than Ever.

As the weather gets warmer in the United States, the traditions of summer sports leagues, summer camps, and retreats usually come into full effect. This summer is different.

COVID-19 means a new kind of summer for young people, and youth-focused non-profits have to adapt. Adapting also means an opportunity to advance your programs in a positive direction for years to come.

Below are three things you can do differently this summer, which will enhance your programming for years to come.

Experiment with Technology

The best summer programming experiences are outside and in person. That is no longer possible, but the role of technology can enhance the best parts of your experience, saving you time and energy to do what matters most.

You should invest your team's time in delivering programming and understanding each young person's unique needs. You should not spend time scheduling, collecting compliance information, and manually keeping track of program performance. If you had not jumped into technology before, this is a perfect time.

That said, consider your investment in technology an experiment, do not feel like you need to change your systems all at once. Here are some small ways to imbed technology into your day-to-day.

  • Use Calendly to arrange your meetings.

  • Leverage Loom to simultaneously record your screen and your computer camera for demonstrations.

  • Create Instagram live content that anyone can follow in real-time.

  • Have Zoom parties, in which you can do a virtual activity as a group or subgroups

Invest Twice As Much In Inclusion

Inclusion has always been critical to the success of your organization. It becomes even more critical now. Why? Creating a sense of community in a virtual environment is non-negotiable. If your program participants don't feel like they are part of a community, all of your virtual efforts to provide support will go in vain. You will need to go above and beyond in terms of how you connect with youth.

This summer, make additional efforts to understand your youth’s interests, feelings, and mindset. Then, in turn, bring this knowledge into your programming. Here are some practical tips to get started.

  • Learn how each of your summer program participants identifies themselves (gender pronouns, nicknames, and more).

  • Continuously check in with them and see how they are feeling.

  • Provide them an anonymous link for them to provide feedback.

  • Connect your summer program participants with mentors in your community.

Share Your Values Everyday

The George Floyd protests have made it clear that young people have a commitment to social change. The protests have made it essential for organizations to respond to and share their stance regarding racism in America.

This summer, you have the opportunity to be more outspoken than ever and demonstrate your values. You have the chance to share them repeatedly so that they become part of your norm. Here are practical ways to live your values every day:

  • Share your values with your entire organization today. Share them in writing via email, text, and share them in person, when your entire organization meets virtually (staff and youth).

  • Ask your youth for help in how to live your organization's values better. An anonymous feedback form can also accomplish this.

  • With your internal staff meetings, ask your team for feedback on how the organization is living or not living to its values.

  • No values, no worries. Today (not tomorrow) is the perfect time to create, share, and evolve your values.

This summer, while the challenges we face may seem more significant than ever, your ability to respond swiftly and with focus can mean your best days are ahead.